Head of Crystal River Primary for 11 years, Bennye Milton, 70, didn't want to stop working. She died Saturday of natural causes.
By CARRIE JOHNSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2001
CRYSTAL RIVER -- Crystal River Primary School Principal Bennye Milton died suddenly Saturday in her Crystal River home.
Milton, 70, had been principal of the elementary school for 11 years. She also worked for 20 years at Crystal River Middle School, where she held a number of positions, including teacher, dean and assistant principal.
Milton was pronounced dead at her home about 1:50 p.m. Saturday, said Richard Brown of Brown Funeral Home in Crystal River. She died of natural causes, he said.
A private graveside service will be held for family members in Lake Wales, and a memorial service for the public is planned for 3 p.m. Thursday at Crystal River United Methodist Church, Brown said.
"Bennye was just a remarkable person," said Sandra Kennedy, assistant principal at Crystal River Primary. "She was always so quick to help other people. And she had a wonderful sense of humor."
Kennedy said the woman who cleans Milton's home became suspicious when she couldn't get into Milton's house at about 10 a.m. Saturday. She contacted the paramedics.
"I was really very upset last night," Kennedy said Sunday."But then I just started concentrating on all of the positive things Bennye brought to this community. . . . She really is a fixture in this school system."
Milton was born in Lake Wales. She received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee in 1953.
After teaching in Pinellas County for several years, Milton returned to Florida A&M, where she earned her master's degree in elementary education in 1969. She began working at Crystal River Middle School in 1970.
Milton has one grown daughter, Lynette Hardy, who lives in St. Petersburg.
Milton was a member of Unity Church of Citrus County in Inverness. Professionally trained in music, she was known for her beautiful singing voice.
Citrus County School Board Chairwoman Patience Nave said Milton was tirelessly devoted to the children of Crystal River Primary. Although well past the age of retirement, Milton had announced that she never wanted to stop working, Nave said.
"We had a wonderful working relationship," she said.
"She was a very respected member of the education community in this county."
Nave said she was not aware of any health problems from which Milton may have been suffering.
With teachers returning to schools from summer vacation in less than six weeks, Nave said it will be a priority to find a replacement for Milton as quickly as possible. She said she expects Superintendent David Hickey to post the job opening today. But the school will never be the same without Milton, Nave said.
"She'll be terribly missed," Nave said. "But she did exactly what she wanted to do: She was with the children until the end."